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The Brief: July 10, 2013

As a bus tour took the debate to Texas' largest city, strict new abortion regulations still drawing national attention moved another step toward becoming law.

State Rep. Senfronia Thompson, D-Houston, during House debate on HB 2 on July 9, 2013.

The Big Conversation

As a bus tour took the debate to Texas' largest city, strict new abortion regulations still drawing national attention moved another step toward becoming law.

As the Tribune's Becca Aaronson reports, the state House on Tuesday night voted 98-49 to tentatively approve House Bill 2, which would ban abortions after 20 weeks and by some estimates close up to 90 percent of the state's abortion clinics. Supporters of the bill say it would improve women's safety, while opponents say it would effectively ban abortion in Texas.

The vote came after 10 hours of impassioned debate. Early in the day, as state Rep. Senfronia Thompson, D-Houston, offered an amendment to exempt victims of rape and incest from the 20-week ban, a group of her Democratic colleagues stood beside her brandishing coat hangers.

Rep. Sarah Davis of West University Place, the only Republican in the House who has opposed the legislation, also proposed an amendment that would add exemptions to the 20-week ban but strike the rest of the bill. 

"No one wants to see abortion. It is a horrible way to end a pregnancy," Davis said. "But it is a constitutionally protected right."

The bill's author, Rep. Jodie Laubenberg, R-Parker, who had said she would not accept any changes to the bill, moved to table all of the more than 20 amendments that lawmakers offered throughout the day.

Other emotional moments came from Rep. Jason Villalba of Dallas, a Republican who held up an ultrasound image of his pregnant wife's womb, and Mary González of Clint, a Democrat who declared that she had been sexually assaulted as a child.

Meanwhile, Planned Parenthood on Tuesday debuted a "Stand With Texas Women" bus tour to rally abortion-rights activists across the state. After a launch event in Austin, the bus traveled to Houston, where a crowd of more than 1,000 gathered downtown to hear Cecile Richards, the president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, whose recent filibuster of the abortion legislation made her an overnight political celebrity.

"We are here because they refuse to listen, because we've had thousands of people show up at the Texas Capitol who asked to be heard and were told no," Davis told the crowd, as the Houston Chronicle reports. "And we are here because we believe it's important to take this message, this conversation and this listening all over the state of Texas."

Rallies are also scheduled for today in Dallas and Fort Worth and for Thursday in San Antonio.

A final House vote on HB 2, meanwhile, will be held today, and Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, told The New York Times that the bill will likely reach the Senate floor on Friday or Monday.


•    Immigration reform heads for slow death (Politico): "Republicans walked away from their 2012 debacle hell-bent on fixing their problems with Hispanics. Now, they appear hell-bent on making them worse. In private conversations, top Republicans on Capitol Hill now predict comprehensive immigration reform will die a slow, months-long death in the House. Like with background checks for gun buyers, the conventional wisdom that the party would never kill immigration reform, and risk further alienating Hispanic voters, was always wrong — and ignored the reality that most House Republicans are white conservatives representing mostly white districts."

•    Santorum to jump into Texas abortion ban battle (CNN): "Rick Santorum's heading to Texas to put his support behind a controversial bill that would ban most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. According to a press release obtained by CNN that will be sent later Tuesday, Santorum will hold a news conference Thursday morning at the Texas state capitol in Austin."

•    House Hearing Ends Without Accord on Transportation Funding (The Texas Tribune): "House budget writers on Tuesday ended a hearing on transportation funding with no clear decision about how to raise money for Texas roads. The House Appropriations Committee is considering several proposals to see which has the most support, even if that means trying to pass a combination of bills in the remaining days of the 30-day special session, said Aaron Greg, chief of staff for state Rep. Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie, the chamber's lead budget writer."

Quote to Note: "This idea that there’s a divine right of succession, I challenge it and thoroughly." — Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Pauken on anointing Attorney General Greg Abbott the front-runner to replace Gov. Rick Perry


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